Editor Tools

Now saving drafts of comments

Have you ever been in the middle of writing a code comment and find yourself needing to switch context for a single minute? When you returned to the diff, did you find that your comment disappeared while you were in the middle of writing it?

In the latest release of GitHub for Visual Studio, we added the ability to save drafts of comments. As they are written, comment drafts are saved to a SQLite database and displayed when a user comes back to them later. Now, in-progress comments will never be lost again.

A big thanks to @grokys for working on the save drafts feature!

Drafts of inline comments

When reviewing a pull request, it’s common to write inline comments in the file diffs. Sometimes it’s necessary to switch back and forth between files (and other views) within Visual Studio. Now the diff can be closed and reopened and the in-progress comment is restored right where you left it.

draft comment open close

Drafts of pull request review summaries

After reviewing a pull request, it’s time to submit your review. From this view, you can navigate away and come back to the summary later so you can easily complete your review.

pr review draft

Drafts of creating pull requests

For creating a pull request, you can close the Create Pull Request form and return to it later—the title and description are filled out just as you left them. Even better, Visual Studio can be restarted and the content will be restored.

draft create pull request

Try it out

This is the latest feature we have added as we continue to build out our pull request workflow. Download the latest version of GitHub for Visual Studio and try it out.

We’d love to hear what you think! Feedback is always welcome in our repository or on Twitter.

Atom understands your code better than ever before

Tree sitter has landed in Atom

Text editors like Atom have many features that make code easier to read and write—syntax highlighting and code folding are two of the most important examples. For decades, all major text editors have implemented these kinds of features based on a very crude understanding of code, obtained by searching for simple, regular expression patterns. This approach has severely limited how helpful text editors can be.

At GitHub, we want to explore new ways of making programming intuitive and delightful, so we’ve developed a parsing system called Tree-sitter that will serve as a new foundation for code analysis in Atom. Tree-sitter makes it possible for Atom to parse your code while you type—maintaining a syntax tree at all times that precisely describes the structure of your code. We’ve enabled the new system by default in Atom, bringing a number of improvements.

Crisp syntax highlighting

Atom’s syntax highlighting is now based on the syntax trees provided by Tree-sitter. This lets us use color to outline your code’s structure more clearly than before. Notice the consistency with which fields, functions, keywords, types, and variables are highlighted across a variety of languages:

This animated GIF shows a snippet of C code rendered in Atom. It then switches to show an equivalent snippet of code written in several different languages: C++, Go, Rust, and TypeScript.

Reliable code folding

In most text editors, code folding is based on indentation: lines with greater indentation are considered to be nested more deeply than lines with less indentation. But this doesn’t always match the structure of our code and can make code folding useless in some files. With Tree-sitter, Atom folds code based on its syntax, which allows folding to work as expected, even for code like this:

This animated GIF shows a snippet of Ruby code, containing a heredoc with unindented text. Code folding is used to first collapse the block containing the heredoc, then collapse the method containing that block, and then collapse the class containing that method.

Syntax-aware selection

Atom also uses syntax trees as the basis for two new editing commands: Select Larger Syntax Node and Select Smaller Syntax Node, bound to Alt+Up and Alt+Down. These commands can make many editing tasks more efficient and fun, especially when used in combination with multiple cursors.

This animated GIF shows a snippet of JavaScript code in Atom. First, nothing is selected. Then, larger and larger constructs in the code are selected.


Parsing an entire source file can be time-consuming. This is why most IDEs wait to parse your code until you stop typing for a moment, and there is often a delay before syntax highlighting updates. We want to avoid these delays, so we designed Tree-sitter to parse your code incrementally: it keeps the syntax tree up to date as you edit your code without ever having to re-parse the entire file from scratch.


Language support

Currently, we use Tree-sitter to parse 11 languages: Bash, C, C++, ERB, EJS, Go, HTML, JavaScript, Python, Ruby, and TypeScript. And we’ve added Rust support on our Beta channel. If you’d like to help us bring the power of Tree-sitter to more languages, check out the Tree-sitter documentation and the grammar page of the Atom Flight Manual.


Want to know more about Tree-sitter? Check out this talk from this year’s StrangeLoop conference.

If you write code and you’re interested in trying our new system, give the new version of Atom a try. We’d love to hear your feedback—tweet us at @AtomEditor or if you’ve run into a bug, open an issue.

GitHub in your editor

In early September, we released a new extension to the Visual Studio Marketplace that supports GitHub pull requests. On October 17, day two of GitHub Universe, we’ll share the stage with the Visual Studio Code Team at Microsoft to give you updates and insight into how we are building the extension during our talk Cross Company Collaboration: Extending GitHub to a New IDE.

GitHub’s dedication to developers

We design GitHub for developer experience—so you can effectively collaborate and build great software. To bring you a user-friendly experience that invites novice and seasoned developers alike, it’s important we identify new opportunities. We’ve been working since 2015 to provide a GitHub experience that meets you where you spend the majority of your time: in your editor.

GitHub for .NET developers

As .NET developers writing in Visual Studio, we recognized a large gap in the ability to collaborate in this environment. In 2015, we brought all Visual Studio developers an extension that supports GitHub.com and GitHub Enterprise engagements within the editor. And today, you can complete an entire pull request review without ever leaving Visual Studio.

"Clone a GitHub Repository" dialog in Visual Studio

GitHub for the Atom community

Not a .NET developer on Windows? No problem! We also support a first class Git and GitHub experience for Atom developers. Access basic Git operations like staging, commiting, and syncing, alongside more complex collaboration with the recently-released pull request experience.

GitHub Extension for Atom

GitHub for game developers

Unity game developers can now use Git within Unity for the first time to clone and sync with GitHub.com and lock files, including large assets that game developers often have in their projects.

GitHub for Unity Interface

GitHub and Visual Studio Code

In Winter 2017 we started planning our integration with VS Code after seeing how it influenced developers around the world. With a basic pull request experience in both Visual Studio and Atom, we knew we wanted to start with that level of collaboration.

In Spring 2018, we reached out to the VS Code Team and discovered that, since they were building VS Code on GitHub, they felt they were missing that collaboration piece in their editor.

VS Code developers now have the first iteration of a pull request review experience within VS Code. With a small group of people, we launched the public preview of the GitHub Pull Request Extension in September 2018.

The pull request experience in Visual Studio Code

This new extension gives developers the ability to:

  • Authenticate with GitHub within VS Code (for GitHub.com and GitHub Enterprise)
  • List pull requests associated with your current repository, view their description, and browse the diffs of changed files
  • Validate pull requests by checking them out and testing them without having to leave VS Code

Thanks to Kenneth Auchenberg (Microsoft), Rachel Macfarlane (Microsoft), Kai Maetzel (Microsoft), Peng Lyu (Microsoft), Sarah Guthals (GitHub), Andreia Gaita (GitHub), and Ashi Krishnan (GitHub) for your continued work on this extension. :sparkles:

Meet us at GitHub Universe

Join us at GitHub Universe October 16-17

Want to learn more? Join us at GitHub Universe 2018 on October 17 at 10:15am. We’ll demo the extension for you, give you an update on what we’re releasing next, and show you how you can contribute. If you can’t make it to San Francisco in time, tune into the livestream on githubuniverse.com.

Connect with us

As always, you can reach out to the Editor Tools Team by tweeting at (@githubvscode) or joining the conversation in our open source repository. And if you’d like to participate in usability studies around our extension, we invite you to fill out a short survey.

If you’re interested in the any of the extensions mentioned in this post, check out previous posts or drop into our GitHub for Visual Studio, GitHub for Atom, and GitHub for Unity repositories.

New and improved clone experience in GitHub for Visual Studio

In our latest release of GitHub for Visual Studio, we introduced a new clone dialog that improves the load time of the repository list using GraphQL. There are also separate tabs to clone repositories from GitHub and GitHub Enterprise and an additional option to clone from a URL.

Thank you @grokys for your work on refactoring the clone dialog and providing two ways to clone GitHub repositories with our extension’s dialog!

Select a repository to clone

The first way to clone a repository is using the “GitHub.com” or “GitHub Enterprise” tabs and selecting a repository from the list.

Clone a GitHub repository using one of two tabs

There’s also the option to use the “Filter” field to narrow down the list of repositories instead of scrolling down the full list.

Clone by URL

The second way to clone a repository is to enter either a full URL or the username and repository names. This is necessary when you want to clone a public repository which you (or one of your organizations) don’t own.

Clone using a URL in Visual Studio Clone using a repository name in Visual Studio

Default clone path

We’ve also updated the default clone path. Previously, we would just clone to the default clone path (found under Team Explorer > Settings > Global Settings > Default Repository Location). Now, you’ll find that the owner and repository name are appended to your default clone path, adding more structure and organization to your local repositories.


We’ve also started to localize GitHub for Visual Studio to give more users a first-class experience when developing with GitHub. We first focused on translating the extension to Chinese.

Figuring out the best practices for localizing an extension has been a learning process. Thanks to @maikebing for providing both simplified and traditional Chinese translations and to @grokys, @jcansdale, and @stanleygoldman for learning how to use Crowdin, the platform supporting our internationalization, and understanding how our extension can support multiple languages successfully.

We’re excited to do more localization in the future for other languages. To see our progress or get involved, check out the issue.

Improving our extension

Thanks to @jcansdale, we’re able to learn through metrics whether our changes are supporting a more effective workflow for users. We’re also currently conducting usability studies for a new feature that we’re building and looking for participants to sign up. If you would like to participate in our 30-minute study, fill out this short survey.

Improved pull request experience in GitHub for Atom

There’s a new way to view and interact with new pull requests in Atom through the GitHub package!

@smashwilson and @simurai have been working on a number of improvements that we’re excited to share with you today, with more on the horizon.

New pull request list view

First, we’ve added a pull request list view. Now you can see the most recent pull requests in the GitHub tab Ctrl+8 with information such as:

  • Author’s avatar
  • Title of the pull request
  • Pull request number
  • CI status
  • “Last Updated” information

When you click on a pull request, you’ll see a view similar to the conversation view on GitHub.com, and can quickly check out the PR with the click of a button!

Click on a pull request for a view similar to the conversation view on GitHub.com, and check out the PR with the click of a button

The top of the view contains the most important information:

  • The pull request author (clicks to their GitHub.com profile)
  • The pull request title
  • The status of the pull request (for example, open)
  • The organization, repository, and pull request number (clicks to the pull request on GitHub.com)
  • A Checkout button that allows you to quickly checkout this pull request inside of Atom
  • A Refresh button to pull updated information about the pull request
  • Your CI and build status, with quick links to view the details
  • The description of the pull request
  • Reactions (currently unclickable)

After this information, you will find the same conversation view you would see on GitHub.com. Sometimes, it may be something as simple as the list of commits and other times it might be an entire conversation.

Hover card functionality

We’ve also added some user experience enhancements, such as enabling the hover card functionality in @mentions and references to other issues and pull requests:

Enabled  hover card functionality in @mentions, issues, and pull requests

Creating pull requests

In addition to seeing more information about your existing pull requests, you can also open a new pull request directly from Atom.

Starting from master, you will see a new message in the GitHub pane providing you with information on what you might want to do next, such as checking out an existing branch or creating a new branch. If you create a new branch, you will be prompted to start making changes to your branch. Finally, if you make changes, stage them, and commit to your branch, you will be invited to publish your branch and create a pull request with those changes:

Screenshot showing you're invted to publish your branch and create a pull request with changes

Clicking Publish + open a new pull request will launch your browser at the draft of your pull request on GitHub.com. There, you can add an extensive description, reviewers, labels, and more. Visit https://github.atom.io/ for more information on the GitHub panel in Atom.

Emoji support in commit messages

We also care about making the experience consistent with GitHub.com. You might notice that commit messages in Atom now support emoji! :sparkles: to @annthurium for making committing in Atom a bit more entertaining:

Commit messages in Atom now support emoji

Learning from our users

We’re excited about the new experiences we’re bringing to the Atom community and looking forward to continuing to improve our package. You might have seen in a recent blog post that we’re working on improving our understanding of who you are, how you write code, and how you collaborate with your team. This involves usability studies, as well as a large project that @annthurium and @jasonrudolph have been working on to improve our metric gathering. Read about the details of Telemetry on the Atom Blog.

We have integrated Telemetry into our GitHub package for Atom so that we can better understand what features are useful—and which are being left undiscovered. We invite you to revisit your opt-in decision on metrics if you’re interested in helping us improve our package by sending metrics through our secure GitHub data pipeline. Just open your Atom Preferences and choose Allow limited anonymous usage states, exception, and crash reporting.

Atom Preferences tab showing option to choose Allow limited anonymous usage states, exception, and crash reporting

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